In a dramatic day at Belfast’s High Court, a judge who sought to quash a report which found British state collusion in the Loughinisland massacre is to step aside from the case.
In 2016, the Police Ombudsman determined that the RUC police colluded with loyalists who killed six Catholic men in a bar as they watched a soccer match. Five others were wounded in the attack.
On Friday, Justice Bernard McCloskey delivered a contradictory series of rulings before accepting that a legal challenge to that report should be re-run in front of another judge -- but only to ensure victims’ relatives’ confidence in the final outcome.
Nevertheless, he lashed out at arguments he was potentially biased after previously representing the same RUC police chief, Raymond White, in a similar case as “flimsy, artificial and entirely unpersuasive”.
Legal experts described the rulings as “unprecedented”. The outcome meant no final order could be made on whether to quash the Ombudsman’s report, which still stands, despite the judge’s insistence that parts should be removed.
Niall Murphy, lawyer for the Loughinisland families said it was “the most unprecedented resolution to a judicial review application that I have ever experienced in my years in practice”.
“What we have now is an opportunity for the Police Ombudsman and the families to re-engage in a brand new reflection of the legal issues raised and we look forward to doing that as quickly as possible.”
Emma Rogan, whose father Adrian was one of the six men killed in the UVF gun attack on the Heights Bar in 1994, said the families welcome a new judge taking a look at the case.
“We are delighted that our report still stands in its entirety - the (ombudsman’s) report that we got in 2016 is still the report that’s on record.”
She added: “I will be here fighting for truth and justice until I have no fight left in me.”
“All we ever wanted was the truth, that’s it, the bottom line - everybody deserves it. It’s human decency for people to know and for people to acknowledge what happened to their loved ones. That’s all we want,” she said.